In 2016, for the very first time in the U.S., a self-driving car accident turned fatal when a Tesla Model S collided with a semi-tractor trailer in Florida. At the time of the crash, the Tesla had been switched to “Autopilot” mode, which includes features like automatic emergency braking, collision warnings, lane holding, and active cruise control.
Despite these safety features, the Tesla crashed into the semi-tractor trailer at an intersection. The driver and sole occupant of the Tesla died in the crash.
Since 2016, two more fatal self-driving car accidents have occurred in the U.S.
In March of 2018, a pedestrian died after being struck by an Uber self-driving car in Arizona. That the same month, a Californian died after his Tesla Model X SUV crashed into a concrete highway lane divider while on Autopilot.
In response to these crashes, many people have wondered how the victims of self-driving car accidents and their families could obtain legal compensation.
In other words, who should be held liable for injuries and/or fatalities resulting from a self-driving car accident?
For residents of Illinois, the state government has answered this question with the Autonomous Vehicle Act of 2017.
What Illinois Law Says about Self-Driving Car Accidents
Passed on April 28, 2017, the Illinois Autonomous Vehicle Act (HB2747) puts forth new laws specifically about self-driving vehicles traveling on Illinois roadways.
Essentially, the Act allows vehicles with “Automated Driving Systems” to be legally driven on Illinois roads. The Act defines an “Automated Driving System” (ADS) as hardware or software that is able to perform all tasks that a human driver can do on a continual basis. Therefore, the ADS itself will be considered the driver or operator in the eyes of the law.
Moreover, these vehicles are not required to have a human behind the wheel, and any occupants in these vehicles do not need driver’s licenses.
In an Illinois car accident, a self-driving car’s ADS will be at fault, because it is consider the “driver” in the eyes of Illinois law. Therefore, liability in a self-driving car accident will be determined under current product liability law or common law negligence principles in Illinois.
For more information on Illinois car accident law, please download a free copy of our book, Transportation Law, Rights, and Injuries: Charting Your Legal Course of Action, from our website. You can also contact Shannon Law Group, P.C. by calling us at (312) 578-9501 or by filling out our online contact form here.